Monday, December 1, 2008

Gorgeously Green: A Book Review

It's been a while since i last wrote a substantive post. I can make tons of excuses for the lack of time (finishing grad school applications, fulfilling holiday orders, trying to get to the dogpark before dark) but non are really good enough. Activism doesn't wait and though my life is full of hobbies, projects, and activities, this blog is by far my favorite and most important. I have no excuse for not making it a priority. Now, onto that substantive post i promised... riiiiiight

I got a book for my birthday. And I read it. Cover to cover. Though that was an extremely difficult feat. This wasn't just any book but a ridiculous joke of a book that teaches women how to be "gorgeously green" while they do all those tough girly things like picking out lipstick, buying groceries, gardening, making dinner, and picking out that "hot new outfit!" I kid you not, those are the chapters... Because obviously women have no real agency other than the trite pursuits of Stay-at-Home-Barbie. Don't get me wrong, i am all about reclaiming femininity in a "gorgeously green" way but when a book teaches me that the ONLY focus women should have on eco-consciousness are stereotypically feminine activities, i can't help but fume.


I got all the way through the third paragraph of the introduction before i understand how much i would despise this book:

"Women like me tend to be more interested in their compact than their compost. We never forget a hair appointment yet always forget our reusable tote... Yoga and recycling were as far down the environmental food chain as i was willing to go. There was no way that i was going to stop dyeing my hair and painting my nails; and my gas-guzzling SUV was just fine, thank you very much!... But I felt too lazy to walk down the hall to the recycling bin - well, a girl needs to conserve her energy for the really important things in life, like sitting down in front of the TV to find out who has been voted off the island..." and on she went...

I instantly knew this book was not for women like me.

I get that she's trying to be cutesy (or at least i pray to god that's what she's doing) but i hate it all. I hate the tone, i hate the impression that women should relate to her, and i hate the lack of genuine responsibility women are empowered to claim in our planet. I also hate that she continuously refers to women as "you girls."

Like i said, this book was a birthday gift... so i kept reading. Truth be told, the content got *a bit* better, but the tone remained the same. I quickly realized it was just this cutesy, inane, benevolently sexist tone that made me want to punch her in the face, even though i understand violence that is never the answer...

Aside from the tone, her constant contradictions and lack of basic grammar made me want to suffocate myself with a cloth tote (don't worry, cloth is too porous). She instructs "us girls" to stay away from certain ingredients only to recommend products with those ingredients as safe solutions. On her website she rationalizes this hypocritical writing by telling us that there are "shades of green" and you don't have to be totally "granola crunch green" if it doesn't fit into your lifestyle... Also, she mentions avoiding the microwave so to not molecularly alter her food but later writes that microwaves are the most eco-friendly way to cook because they use the least amount of energy. The last contradiction i'll mention is her recommendation for bamboo clothing, which must travel hundreds of miles, wasting an unnecessary amount of fossil fuels, before it reaches her white picket fenced doorstep.

I especially hated this book for the incredibly privileged angle from which it was written. She suggests $80 skin moisturizer bottles and 2 ounces of an organic perfume at $775. Seriously? There must be more fiscally responsible solutions for green cosmetics. In fact, there are. Combine her white/class privilege, erroneous writing skills, and vast contradictions and you've got yourself a D+ self help book...

I hate it even more because she succeeds in making a complete mockery out of the genuinely "granola crunch green" way my partner and i try to live our lives.

Yet, this post is a great opportunity to link to The Story of Stuff.


11 comments:

Noble Savage said...

Aside from your use of 'stay-at-home Barbie' as an insult to the author of the book (as if staying at home to raise kids is somehow reprehensible or unfeminist and though I'm not sure what it has to do with her narrow-minded views), I totally agree with you that books like this are infuriating. I hate that wider cultural issues are often 'dumbed down' for women by framing them in ways that we're supposed to all be able to relate to -- namely fashion, beauty, fitness and shopping. Those of us who aren't interested in those things or who don't live our lives in thrall to the lifestyle that women's mags tell us we should be living are left out in the cold with nothing marketed to us except combat boots and PJ Harvey cds.

FeministGal said...

Noble Savage, you're right, i shouldn't insult the author in the way i did. What you wrote was much much better than my insult: issues being "dumbed down" for women. I don't think that people who chose to be stay at home parents are doing anything unfeminist or reprehensible because i recognize that it's extremely hard work. The author of this book, however, was NOT in that category. This book felt like the target audience were women with an overflow of money and not enough creative ways to spend it. I apologize if my comment offended you, but in my opinion there is a big big difference between a stay at home parent who works hard for his/her family and the stay at home moms (or "the girls") for whom this book seems to be written.

Mindy Johnson said...

Although I completely agree with your review of this book and the insulting tone in which it was written, I do have to point out that not all bamboo clothing crosses the ocean. I am a partner in a company that only sells American Made products all made from bamboo fiber.
Our company, bamboosa.com manufactures all of our own fabric, does the dye and finishing, cutting and sewing all within the Carolinas.

ann said...

I work at a Whole Foods in the privileged part of my city. One of the most irritating things about my job is the ways in which "sustainable" is conflated with eighty dollar bottles of moisturizer. In order for environmentalism to work, it has to be accessible to everyone, not just a marker of privilege. There are many affordable ways to be eco-conscious, but the dominant perception of the green movement as elitist turns off many people from even trying.

Anyhow, thanks for posting this.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Going "Green" is a movement I have my criticisms of. I have Ojibway Native heritage and I find this movement highly offensive. Especially since I have lived an Earth conscious lifestyle my whole life because this is a part of my heritage. It is not a trend or the new cool, it is my life. All the sudden Green is the new cool. After years of destroying the Mother Earth we finally are all on this bandwagon of going green. Constructive critique is always important but I am happy that there is a green movement and efforts to live a more Earth conscious lifestyle.

I appreciate your tone and critique, you have a rightful reason to vent about this. This is just one persons perspective and it is important to honor it as sexist as it can be. Overall, great book review! I am linking this to my blog so other readers can check it out!

Smirking Cat said...

That "we girls" giggle-giggle style of writing is sickeningly prevalent. Even magazines like Marie Claire and Glamour that have a token acknowledgement of feminism stoop to that tone of writing, and it's highly insulting.

Lyndsay said...

Great, I will now watch The Story of Stuff. I think I would be appalled at how much some people throw away. My mom always tried to use containers, cloth bags etc as much as possible. She remembers a time when there weren't so many one-use things and wonders how we got to that point. Your The Story of Stuff entry is a good reminder that things haven't always been the way they are and if we can change to how we are now, why can't we go back? And amazing how much some people could do for the Earth without actually giving anything up, just getting into a lifestyle of reusing.

Meg said...

i don't think that it is healthy for anyone to hate something that much.

FeministGal said...

lol, thanks for the concern about my health, Meg, and also for the book. I think the point of the book is important, because everyone should take responsibility for our planet. But like i wrote in the post, I hated the tone, the impression that women should relate to her inane & cutesy tone, and the complete lack of genuine responsibility women are empowered to claim. I wish the author had done better, esp with this important subject :)

Meg said...

sorry galina this is cori on megs computer. I just wanted to read wat u said about the gift they gave u. but really galina thats alot of hate. ;)

FeministGal said...

Haha Cori, the gift was thoughtful and generous - they couldn't have known that the book was written in this benevolently sexist way. The gift was great, the content was horrid. I am grateful for the thought, it's the message of the book that made me fume :)